Compassionate, memorable tales from a journalist who understands the significance of revealing the inner lives of...




Chronicling “the lives lurking beneath the surface of the everyday.”

Garcia (Riding Through Katrina With the Red Baron’s Ghost: A Memoir of Friendship, Family and a Life Writing Stories, 2018, etc.) demonstrates his strong reporting skills and empathetic writing in this collection of pieces previously published in Guernica, McSweeney’s, Oxford American, and the Virginia Quarterly Review, among other publications. The timeliest piece is about the persecution of undocumented immigrants that has ramped up significantly since the election of Donald Trump. In a brief news story, the author learned about Sixto Paz, a Mexican man forestalling deportation by living in a church that “offered sanctuary to undocumented migrants.” Garcia traveled to Phoenix to meet Paz in person; as he has done so well in previous books, the author manages to extrapolate from this one individual’s story greater truths about a large down-and-out population. Garcia helps readers understand how the daily struggles that define and change his real-life protagonists are relevant to them. At times, the author inserts himself into the narratives, showing readers how his research and reporting affects him. Garcia closes the book with a story on Reynaldo Leal, a U.S. military veteran who completed two tours of duty in Iraq and began to realize, years later, that “most of the country has allowed the war to fade from its consciousness.” This piece is another in a long line of the author’s impressive stories about military veterans, their traumatic nightmares, and their less-than-adequate treatment by government agencies. Garcia also frequently investigates the broken U.S. criminal justice system, evident here in “What Happens After Sixteen Years in Prison?” The book’s subtitle rings true for each piece. One shortcoming: The anthology provides no value-added content, such as contextualizing sections or updates on the stories.

Compassionate, memorable tales from a journalist who understands the significance of revealing the inner lives of marginalized individuals.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60980-953-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Seven Stories

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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